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OUR TAKE: Believe it or Not: Just 100 companies responsible for 71pc of greenhouse gases

Here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not for all of our ClimateYou readers. Reported last week in the Telegraph is a list of the top 100 polluters causing 71% of the world’s CO2 emissions. The worst polluter by far is the Chinese coal industry, spewing out 14% of the total. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco is 2nd, at 4.5%, Russia’s Gazprom is 3rd, at 3.9%. Shell, is 1.7% and BP is 11th, at 1.5%. The information was from a new report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), who also points out that “the fossil fuel industry has “expanded prodigiously” since 1988, with coal use becoming even more prevalent and that “approximately 833 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were emitted between 1988 and 2015, compared to 820 gigatonnes between 1988 and the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th century.”DeBeers wants to be carbon neutral

De Beers wants to be carbon neutral within five to 10 years

Natural resource companies must all develop transition plans to adapt to a low-carbon future. They will need to diversify into lower-carbon and renewable energy resources, invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities, increase their energy efficiency, and deal with more and more countries putting a price on carbon. It’s time for fossil fuel companies to clean up their act, and the planet.

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OUR TAKE: Playing Both Sides of the Fossil Fuel Fence

A new report of how G20 Governments are pouring more funds into fossil fuels has just appeared on the Oil Change International site.  Oil Change International is a research, communication, and advocacy organization that exposes the true costs of fossil fuels and seeks to facilitate future transitions towards clean energy.

Science has overwhelmingly shown that preventing global warming means keeping temperatures well below 2°C to ultimately limit warming to 1.5°C by curtailing the use of fossil fuels. This goal was a major part of the Paris Agreement on climate change that was signed in April, 2016 by 195 countries.

Alarmingly, many governments who signed the agreement continue to fund fossil fuel projects.  The report, “Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments are Financing Climate Disaster,” shows how many of the G20 nations still fund the fossil fuel industry and are among the world’s largest economies (and polluters), who, in Paris, had committed to curtail support for fossil fuels in favor of low-carbon alternatives. The report shows that the shift from fossil fuel funding to low-carbon alternatives has yet to happen.

billions on fossil fuels


Here are some alarming figures:

The US financed fossil fuels to the tune of $6 billion annually 2013-2015, versus $1.3B for renewables. Japan’s split was $16.5B – $2.7B; China’s, surprisingly, was $13.5B – 85M. Japan was 3rd largest funder at about $9B, US 4th at $6B – $1.3B. Other G20 nations poured $17.5B into US fossil fuel companies. As one of the authors of the report said, “We must stop funding fossils and shift these subsidies.” Hear, hear! ClimateYou awaits the 2016 post-Paris numbers with great interest.

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Rooftop Choices to Cool Things Down by Paul Rivers for ClimateYou

So here’s the question: If you’re an urban apartment dweller, what are your rooftop options? How can you, as a tenant, educate yourself and figure out which kind of rooftop is the most feasible for your particular building. For example, green and white or reflective roofs are growing as technologies to replace inefficient and heat absorbing dark tar roofing in New York City. By changing the interactions between urban building materials, heat retention, air pollutants, and the lack of prevalent greenspace through innovative technologies like greenroofs, we can seek to address the UHI problem ‘from the ground up’.


New York City suffers from a particularly acute type of UHI called ‘Nocturnal Heat Island’. Stuart R. Gaffin, Cynthia Rosenzweig, and Reza Khanbilvardi are researchers affiliated with the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University, and City College’s Department of Civil Engineering & Earth and Environmental Sciences respectively.  Gaffin, Khanbilvardi & Rosenzweig found that nocturnal heat island showed temperatures between the city and rural surroundings averaging 2.5°C or 4.5°F.  Roofing infrastructure will play a large role in solving this chronic problem. Stuart Gaffin along with other researchers affiliated with Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research outline that: “There is growing public awareness of the role that low-reflectance (e.g., dark), impervious surfaces play in generating excess urban heat…and attention is turning to alternative systems that mitigate these effects and provide other benefits”. While much attention has indeed been spent on investigating dark roofs, researchers like Gaffin are also noticing the big effects other colored paints or retrofitted adjustments can have. Albedo represents the reflectivity of a surface. White roofs for example, like those retrofitted through the NYC ‘CoolRoofs’ program, are repainted with silver reflective paint to increase their albedo, reflecting more sunlight. Dark roofing typically has an albedo of 5%, with 95% of solar radiation being absorbed and released as heat. White or reflective roofs have a 75%-80% albedo, with only 20%-25% radiation being released as heat. It is important to notice this difference particularly as it influences the integrity of our rooftops. Black roofs experience extreme temperature swings between day and night time as they absorb and release this heat. These swings contribute to material deterioration. Researchers in their study featured in Environmental Research Letters, an environmental science journal, found that during summer, peak black roof temperature can reach 70°C (158°F). In addition, they note that the 2011 heat wave in NYC resulted in some roof temperatures exceeding 76.5°C (170°F). Clearly under these conditions black roofs are “contributing a significant heat burden onto the city’s atmosphere, buildings, and energy demand”. Green roof installations, and secondarily white or reflective roofs, can mitigate these problems due to their cooling effects. Researchers at Columbia University found that “White roof membrane temperature peaks are on average 30°F (17°C) cooler than black in summer. Green roof membrane temperature peaks are on average 60°F (33°C) cooler than black in summer”.


Evapotranspiration is a process that relies on the presence of moisture released by plants to cool the surrounding area. Because the green roof includes a living plant layer there is water content that can act as an evaporative cooling moisture source. This layer also increases the insulation of the building, which buffers heat from outside, and regulates temperature inside.

There have been several studies comparing green roofs to cool (white or reflective) roofs. Although both demonstrate high albedo benefits, greenroofs provide more material durability over time. White roofs are susceptible to environmental pressures. In Gaffin’s analysis, white roofs will lose reflectivity due to darkening and weathering, especially in sooty and polluted city areas. Roof proximity to transportation arteries is likely contributing to these pollution influences. Gaffin’s inspection of rooftop surfaces also yielded that “rainwater ponding” and runoff are significant contributors to darkening on white roofs. Finally, the dark “old” roof underneath newer reflective paint is also a factor in reflective paint wear. Despite these issues, white roofs are still a novel consideration for buildings that suffer from overheating problems. However, investing more heavily in greenroofs instead of reflective ones could help mitigate these darkening problems. Additionally, nocturnal urban heat island can be mitigated by large scale green roof infrastructure, which acts as an evaporative cooling agent through moisture in vegetative layers. Vijayarahavan in his 2016 study places the albedo of greenroofs at 0.7-0.85, which would reflect much more sunlight than a dark bitumen, tar or gravel roof which has an albedo of 0.1-0.2. Through moisture evaporation and albedo changes, greenroofs can foster significant roof and surrounding air temperature cooling. Check for the next upcoming article in this series with more information on how green roof policy can been implemented around the world, in the United States, and most recently in New York City!

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Green Roof Tops Cool our Cities Down by Paul Rivers for ClimateYou

New York City, like other urban areas worldwide, struggle with the urban heat island effect (UHI). This phenomenon takes advantage of the energy absorption by building materials and results in a warmer environment in city areas compared to surrounding rural districts. This problem fundamentally lies in the physical characteristics of city building materials which are made to hold in heat and makes the outside areas of buildings warmer.  Hotter conditions makes for more  heat related health risks. However, these deleterious health conditions can be avoided by covering rooftops with living plants and vegetation, lessening the effects of UHI significantly. These green roofs, as they are commonly known, have proven to cool down cities while providing significant reduction in air pollution, and offer evaporative cooling, and even economic benefits.


The US Postal Service has a huge green roof on top of their Morgan mail processing facility in NYC  http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6963

First of all, what are green roofs and how are they made?

Hanson & Schmidt, authors affiliated with the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, found that greenroofs were most commonly layered vegetative systems, with clearly outlined designs and types. Two of the basic systems they identified are either extensive or intensive: extensive is a system in which soil reaches a depth of 2-6 inches, weighs 10-45 pounds / square foot, and costs roughly $20-$25 / square foot. Plants grown on extensive systems are generally limited to Sedum varieties, which are drought tolerant, ground covering plants. Extensive roofing systems are shallower than intensive ones and only support small size plant varieties, but provide thermal benefits at the cheapest price. Intensive systems are deeper at up to two feet in depth, heavier at 45-200 pounds / square foot, require high-load bearing roof capacities, and are more expensive at $30> / square foot. While more expensive, these systems can support larger plants, and a wider variety of vegetation. With the specifications these authors provide, it should be easier for residential, commercial, or governmental customers to pick the green roof that best suits their needs.

Green roofs can mitigate air pollution in urban environments directly though their plant layer, and indirectly by reducing the need for electric utilities. According to Vijayaraghavan, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, plants can directly consume gaseous pollutants through their stomata. Green roofs also reduce the underlying issue of power plant emissions. By reducing the need for building cooling systems like A/C, green roofs lower energy needs. Besides lowering electricity bills for consumers, green roofs lessen the power needs from utilities, and corresponding emissions for electricity production plants. This can yield economic benefits in air pollution and health costs. Researchers affiliated with the University of Michigan provide an economic measure of these benefits, specifically looking at pollutants like nitrous oxides. They reference a study by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Office of Air and Radiation, which used a metric of premature deaths from chronic bronchitis in the Eastern United States to quantify reductions in air pollution. They found that fewer cases of chronic bronchitis translated into an economic benefit between $1680 and $6380 adjusted for 2006 dollars. As well, the researchers calculated that green roofs provide an annual NO­­X (nitrous oxide) uptake benefit of $895 – $3392 for a 2000 square foot vegetated area. Quantifying air pollution benefits in this way allows the interested consumer to easily connect investment information and potential health benefits.

By investigating the environmental, health, and economic benefits of greenroofs citizens concerned about rising temperatures can begin to address the impacts of UHI and request informed changes from local governance.

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OUR TAKE: Coming up are deadly heat waves by 2100

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Kona wanted to study the likely impact of heatwaves as global warming continues. A post by Salon.com reports that researchers discovered that there was no good database, so they made one. They read through 30,000 studies published since 1980. They found 800 deadly heat events in 164 cities in 36 countries. What turns a heat wave into a deadly event? Several things: temperature, humidity, and level of development. While high temperatures can kill by themselves, lower temperatures coupled with high humidity is even more deadly, because the body’s cooling mechanism shuts down when sweat doesn’t evaporate.

The context of a heatwave is important too, in terms of access to plentiful water, air conditioning, and competent medical care. In part because of these contextual factors, less developed countries had more fatalities from heatwaves than did developed countries. Developing countries were also more vulnerable because many, being tropical, had smaller margins of resilience given their normally higher levels of humidity and temperatures.

us heat wave

2016 United States Heat Wave Map

Based on their findings, the researchers predict that, if the world meets the Paris Agreement target limit of 2°C rise in temperature, fully half of the world’s population will be at risk of death by heatwave by 2100. Should that mark be missed, 3/4 could be at risk. Los Angeles would face 30 days each summer over the heat/humidity threshold; in New York, 50 days per summer; in Houston and Orlando, all summer long. You can clearly see the increase in deadly heat days for various cities at this interactive map.

But that’s way in the future, right, so why worry?  But consider this: just a few days ago Phoenix saw an all-time record high temperature for that city of 119°F; the same is happening throughout the Southwest where weather experts have issued heatwave warnings that are “hazardous and excessive.”

Think about it, then call Washington.

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